Tag Archives: Work in Progress

Swings and Roundabouts

Yesterday was a sort of ‘mixed fortunes’ type of day. Some good stuff happened, and some – well, not exactly bad, because that would be overstating the case, but perhaps we can settle on ‘not so good’ – stuff happened, too.

So, a more or less normal day, then.

The good stuff included such highlights as waking up alive, husband waking up alive, the sun shining, my brain working, and gaining my shiny second publication in under a week – my flash fiction, ‘Reunion’, appeared in Issue 22 of The Bohemyth Magazine. (If you missed the link to it, it’s at the end of yesterday’s post, or under the new ‘My Writing’ tab on the blog’s homepage.) Another twisty and dark story about death and messed-up families, I’m at a loss to explain where it came from, too. Suffice to say that my brain normally works in pink and fluffy terms, so there logically must come a time when it needs to venture down the rarely-trod path of evil. You know, for balance.

On the other hand, I learned yesterday that I was not shortlisted for a writing competition I’d entered. I was proud of and pleased with the story I’d written, and I thought I’d handled the brief reasonably well. However, I’d also sent an author photograph with my submission, and it – to be fair – was pretty gruesome. I’ve since found another one where I don’t look quite so much like a Vogon overlord, so let’s hope I’ll improve my chances of being selected now. (I’m joking, of course. Not about the photo looking like a Vogon overlord, but about how choosing a better photo might improve my chances. Of course, it’s all about the writing, and this time I didn’t measure up. No big deal.)

Lest the word 'Vogon' mean nothing to you, I've helpfully included this illustrative illustration. Behold!Image: lebaum.blogspot.com

Lest the word ‘Vogon’ mean nothing to you, I’ve helpfully included this illustrative illustration. Behold!
Image: lebaum.blogspot.com

Perhaps a little more upsettingly, I also came to the realisation yesterday that an idea I’d been working on, and a WiP I’d written nearly 40,000 words on, will now have to be scrapped. (Don’t worry, though – the WiP I’m talking about is not ‘Tider’, nor ‘Eldritch’, nor any of my most recent novel ideas, which is a blessing.) You remember how I spoke about buying books recently, and how much I was enjoying reading them? Well, this is still true, but the book I’m currently reading is also causing me a bit of pain. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time, ever since I first read a synopsis of its plot somewhere online, but I was putting it off because I knew it sounded similar to an idea I’d had several years back. This sometimes does happen, and you feel that your world is ending because someone has written the book you wanted to write before you had a chance to – but then you actually read the book, and it’s not so bad. Life carries on, and you keep working on your WiP, and there’s space in the world for both stories.

This is not one of those times.

Despite the fact that the author has created an entirely different sort of society to the one I wrote about, and her characters are all different, the core concept of the world and the way it functions is exactly the same as the idea I’d been working on. So much so, in fact, that the same terminology and descriptions are used, along with the same images and explanations I’d come up with to convey the ‘reality’ of the fictive world. It’s almost weird to see the word I thought I’d created, used by the characters to describe their world, appearing in print before my eyes, yet not in a book written by me. I have pride in my little idea – clearly, its essence was good enough to make a book out of – but I know my own work wasn’t a fraction as strong as the work in the book I’m reading. In a way, that makes it easier to take. I couldn’t have done as good a job as this author has done, and she has done greater justice to our shared idea than I would have. So, it’s hard for me but better for the world of books and stories that it has worked out this way.

There are differences in our stories, too, so there may yet be something I can salvage from my own work. It’s not a total lost cause yet.

Anyway. To end on a high, the most incredible beams of sunshine are bursting through my windows, the sky outside is so blue it would put the Riviera to shame (we can ignore the fact that the wind is cold enough to skin you, because luckily I’m inside with the heating on), and I’m going to a Christening ceremony tomorrow for a friend’s new and beautiful baby girl, so that will be wonderful.

Life is good.

Image: visitgrandforks.com

Image: visitgrandforks.com

 

Baking Lessons

So, yesterday evening I hit another small milestone in my WiP – I got to 109,000 words.  The last few thousand words have been a real struggle – I’ve felt like I’ve been carving my characters’ actions out of solid rock for the past week.  I’m not quite sure why that’s the case, because most of the rest of the story has flowed freely, and this part should be no exception.  I know what I want to happen, it’s all plotted and waiting to be written, but for some strange reason it just seems… hard.  I’ve theorised that it’s because I’m trying to write a scene filled with action and ‘scenes of grave peril’ – not something I’m used to – and I think it’ll benefit from an edit and rewrite.  But of course, in order to edit and rewrite, I have to write the blessed thing to begin with.  Enter the quandary.

In any case, last evening I got to 109K.  I was pleased, and I feel the work is reasonable.  It’s not at all perfect, nor anywhere near it, but the dialogue is strong, the characters are developing all over the place and I love the scene they’re in.  But, as with every first draft, it’s clunky in places, like badly buttered bread; lumps of plot in random spots and lots of parts where everything is spread too thinly, and every once in a while a character acting a bit like an automaton because I’ve decided I want to move things on a bit.  I know this isn’t good, and I know I’ll get to it once the story has all been told.  In fact, I’m looking forward to going over it again, like a cake decorator with a palette knife, and smoothing the whole thing out.

In order to celebrate my 109K, though, I decided I’d do a bit of baking.  I had an ulterior motive, too – I have a friend who is a particular fan of my shortbread biscuits, and I’m calling to visit him and his wife today so I wanted to bring some along.  My biscuits (or ‘cookies’, if you prefer!) usually turn out all right despite the fact I don’t own a mixing machine – I cream the butter and sugar together in a big bowl with my largest wooden spoon, and it’s tiring but it really works out the stresses of the day.  The only thing I forgot last night was to make sure the butter was soft!  The first batch of biscuits reminded me of the work I’ve been putting into my WiP – it was like making cement shortbread.  I knew the butter hadn’t been properly mixed, but I went ahead and tried them in the oven.  Some of them melted a bit, and they puffed out more than I’m used to, but they came out looking all right.  My husband kindly offered to go and get me more butter for a second batch (as I felt the first weren’t up to gift standard), and they worked much better – more like my usual standard – but some of them were slightly overdone.  I’d forgotten that, because I’d baked so recently, the oven would be much warmer than normal.

So, I was left with two batches of bicuits – a portion of the first batch and a portion of the second batch were pretty good, and the rest were just edible.  It made me think about how you can follow the instructions and do your best, and still come out with a product that isn’t exactly how you imagined it would be.  It might be slightly misshapen, perhaps a little more or less baked than you’d like – maybe it even has a lump of butter in the middle (whoops!)  But, overall, you have to admit that the finished product is fine.  It mightn’t win awards for beauty, but it will do the job.

The method I’ve been using up to now for the WiP isn’t working so well in recent days – but I’m beginning to wonder if that’s a good thing.  My characters are different people now than they were at the beginning of this journey, so naturally they’re thinking and reacting differently.  It’s hard for a poor old writer to keep up with them!  They’ve never faced such danger before, so it’s new ground for them and for me.  Last night’s shortbread was a slightly different recipe to my normal one – usually I bake stem ginger shortbread, but last night’s was chocolate (I couldn’t get any glacé ginger).  So, in a way, it was new ground, too.  I didn’t make the most beautiful shortbread in the world, but it’s certainly worth eating – and my first draft WiP won’t win the Booker Prize, but I hope it’ll be worth reading!  With practice, I’m sure my chocolate shortbread biscuits will be just as delicious as their ginger cousins, and I hope my second, third and fourth edits of the WiP will resemble – but be a marked improvement on – the current, slightly half-baked, first draft.

If at first you don’t succeed… bake, bake, bake again!